Monday, June 20, 2005

Military as a "Family Business": Newsweek ALMOST gets it right

You have to give credit where credit is due. T. Trent Gegax and, ahem, Evan Thomas have authored an article that we should have seen, oh, 3-3.5 YEARS AGO, but we should take what we can get; The Family Business (not yet available online) in the 20 JUN 05 Newsweek.

The focus of the article is the tradition of multi-generational military families, with a narrow cast on Flag officers (Generals and Admirals) and their sons serving in Iraq – Lieutenant General Odierno and his son Captain Odierno are the on the cover and lead off the article with their story. There is also a lot of time spent on Lieutenant General Conway and his two sons, both Captains that served WITH their father while he was Commander of the First Marine Expeditionary Unit in the run to Baghdad. You really need to read the whole thing as other Generals' stories are covered, and a nice review of the history of the “Family Business” rounds out the article.

Oh, and yes, I saw the following “McCain Worship” (not to be confused with “
Gannon Worship”) story, and do not think it is an accident that this follows the first campaign commercial for McCain ’08, but I’m not going to rant about that. It is too obvious.

There are some great data here known as common knowledge to those in uniform, but are most likely a surprise to many outside the military community. I’ll update when it is available online, but I will quote sections below. Before we go there, I have to point out that I am giving Newsweek only partial credit here; let's say an 85. The reason? Like they couldn’t help themselves, they had to throw in discredited liberal boilerplate here and there that just have no place in this article. It was almost like the editor said, “Hey, we need some negative stuff in here. Go find it and cut-n-paste it here and there…”

I’ll outline it at the end of the post in an “ERRATA SHEET.” Let's cover the good stuff first.

LT. GEN. Ray Odierno comes from a military family. His father was a WWII Army sergeant. His son Tony served as a platoon commander with the First Cavalry; Ray served as commander of the Fourth Infantry Division in Iraq. As a family, they shared joyful news from the front. Ray’s wife, Linda, was asleep in a hotel room in Lubbock, Texas on Dec. 13, 2003, when her husband woke her, calling from his base in Tikrit. “Turn on the TV,” … it was still a secret that his men had captured Saddam Hussein.

not all calls from the war zone are so happy. About eight months later .. the phone rang. It was General Odierno’s old friend Maj. Gen. Peter Chiarelli, commander of the First Cav. .. “Tony was in an ambush, and he was injured pretty seriously.” The medics weren’t sure if they could save Tony’s left arm. … Ray Odierno recalls his reaction when General Chiarelli called him … ”The first thing I thought was, ‘I just wanna get home’.” On the drive back, Chiarelli called again. “Tony just finished surgery, and he lost his left arm.” Odierno could feel that Chiarelli was crushed by being the bearer of such bad tidings, and he tried to reassure him. ‘You’re doing a great job over there. I understand the risks and Tony understands the risks, and we’ll work through this together.” Odierno tried to stay focused: his son was alive.

What is good about this, is that it personalizes the U.S. military and its leadership. In a time where there is a lot of “do as I say, not as I do” going around, it shows that unlike the Hollywierd stereotype, though not perfect men, U.S. Flag officers on average are not what many think; and most walk-the-walk.
General Odierno is one of about 300 Army generals in the U.S. military. About a third of them have sons or daughters who have served or are serving in Iraq of Afghanistan.
They also attack, wait for it, Michael Moore! Quick, get me my smelling salts!
Contrary to the impression left by moviemaker Michael Moore in “Fahrenheit 9/11.” Congressmen do sometimes send their children to war. Three senators and six members of the House have children in uniform, and four of them have served in Iraq of Afghanistan.
Let look at the percentages, shall we?
Senate = 3%
House of Reps = 1.4%
For percentage of "military families," at first blush that looks fair for the Senate, the House...well...notsomuch. What would be nice to see is of that 3 and 6 members, what is the Republican vs. Democrat breakdown. Because it isn't mentioned, something tells me that it is overwhelmingly Republican, but that is just because I have a bias against media-bias. Oh, don't forget that former Attny. General Ashcroft's son is a Navy Officer.
Mid-post update: I don't know where the 3 and 6 came from, but I did find a reference from
this MAR that has the overall number at 6 not 9. What is the split you ask? 5 Republicans and 1 Democrat. My theory holds. Honor roll: Rep. Joe Wilson (R-SC); Sen. Kit Bond (R-MO); Rep. Todd Akin (R-MO); Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD) {his son is a SSG with the 101st Airborne}; Rep. Duncan Hunter (R-CA); and of course Rep. John Kline (R-MI) mentioned in the article. I wish Newsweek put a complete list....but I'm not editor there. That is worth another story....


In the same sidebar, Rep. John Kline of Minnesota (a retired Marine Colonel) made a great comparison of Congress to the military.
In the military, a persons word is his gold standard. “In Politics,” Kline says, “generally speaking, people say, ‘Yea, you can count on me.” Then somebody else presents something to them and they change their mind. It’s just a different culture.”
Indeed.
Of the hundred or so generals whose children are serving or have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, one is a mother. Brig. Den. Carla G. Hawley-Bowland is commander of the Europe Regional Medical Command … her son Scott went to Iraq as part of the Colorado National Guards’s 109th Medical Battalion. As a middle-schooler playing soccer, Scott had been teased about being a military brat. “Your mother wears combat boots,” a player yelled on the field. “Yeah,” Scott replied. “So?”
Now there is a civilian-military divide for you. Snicker.
”I’ve always had a degree of resentment against Ivy League schools for preventing recruiters on campus,” says Sen. John McCain. “It is the height of elitist snobbery.” McCain’s argument for letting ROTC back on Ivy League campuses is “not because it gives us career officers, but because it gives future leaders of our country military experience.”
Now there is the John McCain I like. More! More! More!!

More myth busting (this article gets Kudos for this).
In the Third ID, which bore the brunt of the early fighting in Iraq, re-enlistment rates are twice what was expected.

..Young married Marines re-enlist at a greater rate than unmarried troops. The only explanation is that for many, the Marine Corps is a world in which they with to raise their families, despite the dangers and frequent moves.
There is no doubt that the military can encourage family values. There are undoubtedly a few fathers right out of Pat Conroy’s “The Great Santini,” … but there are many more who fit the model of the Conways, or Ray and Tony Odierno, father and son trading tips on body armor and inexpressible love as they passed an ancient torch, in a tent in Kuwait, on the way to war.
I've had issues with Newsweek before, but they deserve credit for this cover; but thank goodness this wasn’t in Time, I couldn’t tell you to go buy it at the bookstand. THIS Newsweek on balance deserves a solid “B” and is worth your purchase, as I only quote a small portion of it. Either that or you can wait a week or two for it to show up online.

Not that the good news is out of the way…

ERRATA SHEET

But is also underscores the isolation of the military from the rest of society. Increasingly, it seems, American is divided between the vast minority who do not serve and the tiny minority who do. The shared sacrifice of WWII is but a distand memory. During WWII, 6 percent of Americans were in uniform; today, the Pentagon says, the figure is four tenths of 1 percent.
What is the point here? WWII was full mobilization for roughly half a decade. Is that what they want? The historical norm is a exceptionally small military. Heck, our many of our Founders didn’t even want a standing Army. The divide is where many of those who have gained the most from our freedoms, the self appointed bi-coastal elite, refuse to serve or let their children serve; a point I love to talk about.
”The whole country’s undergoing patriotism lite, “ says Charles Moskos, a Northwestern University professor generally recognized as the nations’s leading military sociologists. Moskos suggests on solution would be for leaders to set a better example with their own children. “If Jenna Bush of Chelsea Clinton joined the military,” he says, “the recruiting problems would be over.”
Well, in all respect for Professor Moskos, his theory is bunk. Unless you had co-ed showers like Starship Troopers, I don’t think having Jenna join the military is going to help recruiting. Chelsea, she can have her own shower. I will say this though, the Placement for SERE School would have not problem filling billets if Chelsea joined. Don’t get me wrong, I think it would be great, but Professor Moskos overestimates the ability of a father to say “You adult child of mine: get ‘ye to a recruiter!” That is a decision Jenna and Chelsea have to make on their own. I think it would be the absolute right thing to do, though I would rather see George P. as a Marine. But that is just me. BTW, what is wrong with Barbara? Skippy-san would mentor her.
Military sons tend to spout worthy bromides about duty when asked why they follow their fathers to war. But their more personal motivations aren’t too hard to divine. Combat has been a test (in some cultures the test) of manhood for millennia. There is no better way to win a fathers respect than to defy death just the way he did.
More bunk. Maybe that is what your Freudian therapist told you, but tell that to any Wardroom and you will get nothing but laughs and scorn. Silly comment.
… blacks and Hispanics make up a disproportionably large number of our servicemen and women, and a disproportionately small number of the top brass….
What in the hell does that old saw have to do with the price of tea in China? Just thrown in there for no reason but to meet someone’s quota of “diversity issues.” This has been debunked before and for combat arms MOS, the opposite is true – if it matters. Look at the faces of those killed so far. I see Americans, but if you insist on pushing your Leftist, racist, Boomer eugenics fetish, go ahead. It’s your petard, hoist yourself on it….wait you already did. If you turn the page you come to a graphic of race and ethnicity of Army applicants. The breakout:

  • White (Ural to Pyrenees EUR-AMER?)=66%
  • AFR-AMER=15%
  • Hispanic (Iberian EUR-AMER?)=13%
  • Look “disproportionate?” Now, I will admit as you get to the fine print, especially in some of the non-combat arms MOS in the Army, that may be true, but in general it is not worth talking about. I guess because it is part of the Boomer Leftists cant, we have to. Sigh. BTW, you will not find more mixed race people in any other cohort than you will in the military and their children (look at the Commissary – we are the progressives in this area), where are they in the mix? Oh, that is right. The Leftists like the Klan one-drop-rule….
    Army officers for some years have passed around copies of “Once an Eagle,” a 1968 novel by Anton Myrer about a duty-bound Army officer who tries to rise above back-stabbing civilian hippies.
    Come on people. That book almost 40 years old. I know I am a Navy guy, but I’ve never heard of it. More Boomer self-focus. Get over yourselves…geeezzzeee.

    104 comments:

    Grandpa Bluewater said...

    Undiscussed is the phenomenon of the General or Col. and his or her corporal or buck sgt son or daughter.  Or SSGT Montoya of Oceanside, whose cousins, uncles and grandparents live in Ciudad Mexico or mow lawns in Tucson, Who became a naturalized citizen as a Lance Corporal.
    Or Maj Minh, who's Dad use to be Dai-Wei Minh the A-1 pilot, and runs a dry cleaners in TX now.

    Family business. Recruiting new families every day.

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